Trademark protection for EU organic label expired
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
The Office of the European Union for Intellectual Property (EUIPO) has deleted the EU organic label as a company trademark. Sounds strange – because it is emblazoned on every organic food in the EU after all. However, this will stay that way, because the decision actually is about something else: protecting the logo in the right category and outside the EU.
The EU made several mistakes
“The European Commission has failed to properly protect the EU organic logo. Especially in third countries, where EU organic products with the EU organic logo are delivered, there is a lack of trademark protection,” says lawyer Hanspeter Schmidt. In 2016, the Commission itself introduced the category of the EU warranty brand in addition to the company brand, but then failed to protect the EU organic logo in it. In China and many other third countries where EU organic products are popular, there is a lack of protection: If someone wrongly sells products with the EU organic logo there, the EU Commission has no legal means to prevent this.
Proof of logo usage is missing
To point this out, the lawyer chose the path via trademark law. In 2012, the Commission registered its organic label as a trademark with the EUIPO. The office's rules state that anyone can request cancellation of a trademark if it has not been used for five years. Schmidt did this for an organic farmer who supplies baby food manufacturers who export all over the world. In 2012, the EU organic logo was registered as a company trademark. It should have been used in such a way as to indicate the origin of the product from a particular company. This was not the purpose of the EU organic logo, which signals compliance with EU organic law by everyone who uses it. Therefore, the Trademark Office decided that the trademark registered in 2012 should be cancelled due to non-use.
“The European Commission will now, hopefully also urged by the member states, in the first step bring about proper trademark protection for the Union itself and in the second step proper protection for all the important target markets outside the European Union,” says Hanspeter Schmidt. Then his wakeup-call would have fulfilled its purpose.